Veterans to Nasume's massive Harvest Moon line have come to expect multiple titles from the farming-hungry company, and relish the small differences that make each game unique.
Not unsurprisingly, Nastume showed four (yes, four) Harvest Moon games this year. As a veteran myself, I'm learned to be able to spot a good Harvest game from a mile away. Enter Animal Parade.
In this iteration of the series, a divine tree which stood in the middle of the Harvest Goddess' pond has become weak, animals are leaving the land and the five bells have lost their power. Of course, the only person who can fix this is the Harvest King, and he's AWOL. To bring him back, you must ring the five bells and revive the land.
Apart from the main plot is the circus. The ringmaster of a touring circus (you'll recognize him as the mayor in Magical Melody for Gamecube) visits the last Sunday of every month…and always manages to lose an animal or two! Of course, in typical Harvest Moon fashion, your character will offer to find the animal before the circus returns, making a new friend in the process. This is aided by a new whistle that is wielded by the main character. The whistle allows each animal you befriend to perform a special trick, with new tricks being learned the friendlier you are with them.
The whistle also allows you to ride more than your horse. Legs tired? Call your cow over. Can't find your cow? Call over your sheep. Most animals with the right heart level and four legs can be ridden. You can even take pictures with them, using the new camera feature. Use the self timer to take a picture of you and your favourite penguin, and even upload it using WiiConnect24 Now that's innovation.
Also new is the ability to choose between four different characters at the beginning of the game (male or female, main characters from Animal Parade or Tree of Tranquility). Those won't be the only familiar faces either. I was told that Animal Parade would bring back the top favourites from the franchise. Personally, I have high hopes for the TRUE return of Popuri, from the N64 days.
For those of you who are newer to the Harvest Moon addiction, this game is similar to Tree of Tranquility in many respects. The map is large but feels smaller because the camera angle is still annoyingly tight to the derriere of your character, an issue I was told would NOT be resolved. Actually, the map even resembles Waffle Island and the controls are almost identical, making it an easy transition for those experienced in the ToT world.
Unfortunately, the annoying loading times from ToT have returned, much to my dismay. However, while ToT didn't make up for the delay with fantastic content, I'm optimistic that Animal Parade will be able to make you forget having to wait. I mean, come on, you can have two children AND make them work in the fields. Already that's a serious improvement.
With the game set to launch fall 2009 on the Wii, I'm hoping I'm not the only fangirl ready to try riding the giraffe.